Once, back when my husband was in medical school, he found himself in an elevator with a woman he instantly recognized from something he’d read in the school paper. So he struck up a conversation with her.
Undoubtedly alarmed that a perfect stranger was so familiar with her background — where she’d gone to school, what she’d studied, her grade-point average, different awards she’d won — and possibly even suspicious she’d come face-to-face with some kind of cerebral stalker, the woman timidly asked Doug how he happened to know so much about her.
“From that article the paper printed welcoming you to town,” he explained with a friendly smile. He could still recall it as clearly as if he’d read it yesterday.
She raised her eyebrows, nodded slowly, inhaled deeply and waited for the elevator to reach her floor. Then, as she stepped out, she told him, “That article was published seven years ago.”
All to say, my husband was blessed with a phenomenal memory. He could easily pass a test on information he read a single time. He could glimpse a phone number on a billboard and recall it weeks later. And he could study a map before we left home and take us straight to our destination, even if we had to drive across several states to get there.
Unfortunately, that was in the era before smart phones. Now when we travel, he feels compelled to consult Google maps every 10 minutes.
Most couples fight about sex and finances, but not us. Instead, Doug and I argue about how soon stuff should be donated to Goodwill (he considers an item fair game if we haven’t used it in the past five minutes; I favor waiting until we are 100% sure we’ll never need it again) and about how frequently a driver can safely look at his phone while the car is moving.
The only correct answer — and the one we teach our children — is “not at all, ever, ever, ever.” But one of us has a harder time practicing what he preaches in that department than the other.
Can you relate? Whether you memorize the map or depend on your GPS, keep your eyes on the road while driving! If you need to look up directions or type an address into your phone, please pull over or have a passenger do it or just plug in your destination before you even leave home, and let Siri give you step-by-step instructions.
In the interest of full-disclosure, l must admit that while I normally don’t even glance at my phone while driving, I’m still not as safe a driver as I’d like to be.
Do you remember the lullaby Mary Poppins sang as she tucked Jane and Michael under their covers?
“Stay awake, don’t rest your head. Don’t lie down upon your bed. ... You’re not sleepy, as you seem. Stay awake, don’t nod and dream.”
Of course, her admonitions were completely ineffectual, because the song lulled her charges right to sleep.
Driving affects me that same way. I can only make it 15 to 20 minutes behind the wheel before those parallel lane markers steadily rolling past put me in a trance.
Fortunately, my husband and most of my older children are immune to the hypnotic effect of sitting behind the steering wheel, so they do the majority of the driving when we travel. On the rare occasions that I can’t avoid driving, I take lots and lots of stretch breaks. I run laps around the car. I do jumping jacks. I sing opera. I crunch ice. I pray out loud.
If you’re too sleepy to drive safely, you need to pull over, too. Driving while exhausted is just as dangerous as driving while distracted or intoxicated.
So grab a cup of coffee. Slap your cheeks. Stay awake. No nodding or dreaming when you’re the one driving!
These two admonitions — stay alert and memorize the map — are pragmatic driving tips, to be sure. But they make for some practical life lessons, as well.
Scripture repeatedly tells us to be on the alert, to stay sober, to remain vigilant:
“Be on your guard and stay alert! For you do not know when the appointed time will come.” — Mark 13:33
“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” — Colossians 4:2
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and sober, so that you can pray.” — 1 Peter 4:7
“And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.” — Ephesians 6:17-18
That last verse compares God’s word to a sword with which we can defend ourselves. But I’ve also heard the Bible compared to a roadmap for life.
Thinking of Scripture this way, it makes perfect sense why believers would want to consult it frequently. I’m all about spreading it open at the start of every day, pouring over the pages, looking to it for guidance and direction.
In the same way, I believe the Bible is the first thing we should reference if we lose our way. Whenever that happens, it’s good to call time-out, pull to the side of the road and get your bearings straight.
But the constant flow of traffic and the grind of daily deadlines don’t always allow for in-depth word studies and read-as-you-go encouragement.
That’s why, if you want to stay on course from the outset, nothing beats memorizing the map. When you hide God’s word in your heart, it acts as an internal compass to keep you pointed in the right direction.
You can reference it mentally as you go, meditating on it, mulling over what it means and how its timeless truth and wisdom relates to your current surroundings. That way, you aren’t dependent on good internet reception; you don’t have to flip through pages or scroll down screens when the road ahead demands your full attention.
When we internalize and memorize the word of God, it is ever present, ever available, ever enabling us to home in on our goal with laser-like focus: that of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.
Jennifer Flanders loves to travel and is thankful for a husband who can memorize the map and stay alert behind the wheel. For her best tips for traveling with children and stretching vacation dollars, check out Jennifer’s new book, “Pack Up & Leave” (http://bit.ly/packupandleave).